Nine NFL players, led by Tom Brady, file class-action suit against league

Nine NFL players, led by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady but seeking to represent all current and future NFL players, filed a class action lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Minnesota seeking to enjoin the NFL from locking players out, among other things.

The lawsuit, filed by the players just hours after the NFL Players Association de-certified and became a trade organization, alleges that the league and NFL clubs violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by planning to lock out non-unionized members, by planning to hold an NFL Draft, and by imposing a salary cap and free agent restrictions.

Upon expiration of the collective-bargaining agreement at midnight, the league has the option to lock out the players. If it opts not to take that action, free agency would begin, and the league would have to impose work rules.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the NFL and its clubs "from agreeing to deprive the players of the ability to work as professional football players." It also seeks declarations that the lockout, the draft and the salary cap, among other things, are violations of the Sherman Act. It further seeks an injunction to prevent NFL clubs from "agreeing to withhold contractually-owed amounts to players under contract for the 2011 NFL season and beyond."

In addition, the lawsuit seeks a declaration that the NFL clubs shall pay contractually-owed amounts to players "whether or not the lockout continues."

The other named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Drew Brees, Vincent Jackson, Ben Leber, Logan Mankins, Peyton Manning, Brian Robison, Osi Umenyiora and Mike Vrabel.

"The NFL Defendants’ anticompetitive agreements include a so-called 'lockout' aimed at shutting down the entire free agent marketplace for players no longer under contract, as well as a boycott of rookie players seeking an NFL contract for the first time, and even players currently under NFL contracts, who will not be permitted to enjoy the benefits of those contracts," the lawsuit states. "The stated anticompetitive purpose of this group boycott is to coerce plaintiffs and other players to agree to a new anticompetitive system of player restraints which will, among other things, drastically reduce player compensation levels below those that existed in the past and that would exist in a competitive market."
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